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Sociology Questions

1) Explain how the differential association theory is compatible with Merton’s anomie theory in society. Which do you think holds the most validity today and why? Both Edwin Sutherland’s theory of differential association and Robert Merton’s anomie theory are compatible in the fact that they fit into sociological theories involving social structure, crime, and deviance. While Merton’s theory revolves around the emergence of a criminal self, because of the uneven social structure in society due to Capitalism, therefore presenting itself as a conflict theory, Sutherland’s theory falls under the umbrella of symbolic interactionism.

With differential association, the criminal self emerges when one adopts the values, attitudes, and behaviors of other criminals. This theory is simple and likely the root of the common phrase “guilt by association”. For this reason it is more valid and less compatible with Merton’s theory as anomie is much more complex. From Merton’s theory comes the much heard phrase, “the ends justify the means”.

With anomie the theory is that the means to attain a lifestyle that is valued and appreciated by mainstream society many times becomes interrupted with a gap in the way of achieving this lifestyle in legitimate ways. The criminal, therefore, must innovate ways to achieve a way of sustaining life in socially unacceptable ways, but it is the structure of society itself that encourages this behavior. This brings to point the fact that Merton’s theory, also, holds shades of structural functionalist theory in addition to conflict theory, further confounded it.

But, as stated Sutherland’s theory is quite simple and fits nicely under the symbolic interactionist school. Differential association involves social learning and communication and the act of becoming a criminal is just the same as someone learning to become a non-deviant person from having contacts with that type of group. Anomie does not take these simpler facts into account and therefore differential association is more valid today. 2) What was the ground breaking methodology of the Chicago School and what were the advantages?

Are these advantages still valid for today’s research? The ground breaking methodology of the Chicago School was that field research is theory, whichever theory that may be. This is one of the elements of symbolic interactionism, that one is constantly creating reality by experience and interaction. These theories from the Chicago School were embedded in research and that research was more valid, because it came from experiences and narratives from those involved as participants in field studies.

This differed from the research evolved from classical theory, which created much speculation and less “hands-on” validation through the form of participant observation. The advantages of this style was that this type of research could be done in a relatively short period of time, allowing Sociologists to observe newly emerging phenomena, such as rapid immigration and ethnic conflict. Similarly, the studies could be more helpful in local situations, as the studies centered around persons in local, urban communities and were less concerning with abstract empirical findings.

Though, there are more Feminist, Postmodern, and a blend of the classical theories in existence today, the Chicago School is the only school for grass-roots clinical sociology. Those wishing to not only postulate on sociological issues, but to seek to ameliorate them can only do so through this type of “hands-on” fieldwork. Other types of study remain beneficial to the academic Sociologist, but to their clinical or activist counterparts, the Chicago School holds the best hope for study and action.

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